Daddio: This One’s For the Girls

If a perverted cab driver offered to solve all of your problems on your ride home, would you let him?

Daddio is a slow burn but it will take your stomach through every emotion known to mankind. Written and directed by Christy Hall, this drama follows a woman’s (Dakota Johnson) taxi ride to her New York apartment as she gradually tells the driver, Clark (Sean Penn), about the sad events in her life that led her to an affair with a married man.

We’ve all met this girl before. She is a great energy to be around; she is funny, witty, friendly. She’s the friend who remembers every important date in her friend’s lives and never misses a celebration. She is the one who always knows what to say at the right moment, her light is so bright and welcoming that it envelopes everyone who comes around her with warmth and love, except for herself. Daddio is a tragedy – the tragedy of a great woman whose self-worth has been progressively destroyed by the people who were meant to love her and protect her. All the unfortunate and pivotal moments in her life led her into the arms of a married man who does not respect her or care about her well-being and she cannot leave him.

Clark, with his charm, sees these troubles in her immediately and, for the next hour, reads her for filth – in the most kind way that a cab driver you’ve never met before can. Clark is sort of an image of her deceitful lover’s future; he admits to being a serial cheater, gaslighting his former wives, and compartmentalizing women as either whore’s to play with or women you marry. He is a pervert with an appetite for 19-year-old girls, his excuse for chasing young girls and making them his mistresses? His wife got fat and stopped being a pig in the bedroom, which in his mind is the basis for why all men cheat. He is a vile human being who is equipped with the wisdom that his passenger needs.

And, with both ears, much like Johnson’s character, we are listening and taking notes. Years of abandonment issues, Clark resolves with nauseating candour; but as our passenger listens with intent, she is also distracted by her married man’s bread-crumbing techniques. “Look what you do to me?” he says, followed by a picture of his mediocre hardened crotch. She is disappointed and excited at the same time. Sexually? Maybe, but it’s more her hope that jolts up. As she shares deeply sad tales of abandonment and emotional neglect by her family, interlaced with Clarks very real breakdown as HOW this married man views her, are moments of clarity. Maybe Clark is right about her married lover, maybe her gut instincts about his lack of sensitivity are…also right?

In the final 30 minutes of the film, the final trauma she has faced is revealed and it brings everything together in a way that makes you break down into tears. Hot, angry, sad, I-wanna-shake-you and-hug-you-at-the-same-time, tears. And as the film ends, you (possibly) like me will feel disoriented wondering what the hell you’ve just watched and what is even the lesson here?

And that is brilliance of this film.

This woman’s experience may be unique to her but her emotions, thoughts, struggles and reactions to Clark are a mirror for us girlies out there or here struggling with our self-worth. Daddio asks us to examine whether or not we are treating ourselves right and loving ourselves enough. The film asks us, how much is our personhood worth in pursuit of the love of a man?

Or maybe, I am heavy on the projection. Like I said, this movie is a mirror.

Daddio is in theatres now.

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